Late Blooming Perennials

Some gardeners have to pick there moments.  A spring wildflower and bulb garden highlighted by hellebores, perhaps.  Or an early summer rose and delphinium fest.  Does a late summer garden suit you better?  Are your pots your passion?  If I were retired, had a garden the size of Sissinghurst, and an garden staff, I  might could have it all. But that is not the case.  I work every week that the garden is in session.    

I am utterly focused on the work at hand from early May until the 4th of July.  This means I have little time to enjoy and nurture a garden at home.  People in the nursery business or the landscape business all have the same issues.  They get to work early; they go home late.  They work the weekends too.  Once the early spring has passed, and the magnolias are finished blooming, my eyes and hands are everywhere but at home enjoying my garden.      

I plant lots of pots-this keeps my love of gardening alive while my attention is elsewhere.  When I come home at night and water, I feel like I am gardening.  My landscape is designed around my lack of time to pay attention.  I have lots of mature evergreens that require little but a once yearly pruning, and some thoughtful watering.  Late in August, I start to come up for air.  I am looking at my gardens. 

The late blooming perennials I greatly enjoy, as I have time to enjoy them.  My rose garden is underplanted with white Japanse anemones, and boltonia.  Boltonia is a selected native fall blooming aster that is one of my favorite plants.  They grow all summer long without one bit of encouragement from me, and bloom like there is no tomorrow in September.  They are not fussy in any way, beyond appreciating regular water.  Bugs and disease-they are impervious.  For the past 3 weeks, I have been looking at these tall growing clumps out my south side windows.  How they thrive makes me look like a good gardener.   

The white Japanese anemones thrive equally well-on the south side of my house, in between and behind the roses.  They have no problem with a full sun location.  I do water my roses regularly via drip irrigation-the anemones seem to appreciate it.  For the better part of 10 days I have been wading into the anemones and boltonia with my camera.  I have time to look, and appreciate what is going on. 

I do not have the means or space to mount and maintain a garden that is lovely every moment of the entire season.  I have to make choices.  I like a late and a later season garden.  I like tall billowy perennials.  This means I personally favor hyssop, monarda, boltonia, hardy hibiscus, Joe Pye weed, ornamental grasses. aging Russian sage, phlox paniculata, lespideza, asters, anemone Japonica, among others.  This has every bit as much to do with my availability, as their form and flowers. There are very few garden plants I do not like.  I would have them all, if I could.           

But there are those plants that get special care and attention, as their time to be corresponds with my time to give. The big late blooming perennials-they occupy a special place in my gardening heart.  As for your garden, I would make this suggestion.  Choose the season that delights you the most-and go for broke.  If you want to grow great vegetables, organize your gardening efforts accordingly, and make plans for rocking pots of basil.  If you have a summer house elsewhere, make spring your season.  If you are a working person, plan for a glorious garden when you are the least busy.

Trying to be all things at all times sounds way too much like a competition.  A great garden that engages and satisfies an individual gardener is all about enabling a certain quality of life.  Those astonishingly beautiful pictures you see of gardens in magazines-they are all about a specific moment chosen by a gardener.  Choose your moment.

In The Pink


By late October, many garden plants have that foundering, fish out of water look. You know what I mean. My butterburrs are moments from total collapse.  The hostas have that translucent sickly yellow color which precedes the frost turning them to mush.  But some things look great yet-my Carefree Beauty roses look strikingly fresh. The foliage is lush and healthy.  The pink flowers have an intense cerise pink cast from the cold nights.  Though a hard frost will finish them off, they are beautiful right now.  It is a rare year that we do not have a hard frost before Halloween.  Our coldest night yet has been 40, but I doubt this will hold much longer.  I appreciate so much what the garden has to offer right now; the dormant season is closer than any northern gardener is willing to admit.  

I was fortunate enough to get a tour of Landscape Supply Inc recently from owner Steve Alford. He has made a life’s work of making rare, unusual and specimen plant material available to the trade.   I could not tell that this tree was a Stewartia-the tall thin shape is so unusual for this tree.  But what I admired the most was that pink-orange fall color-sensational.  I understand why many gardeners in my area are so keen for the fall season.  At no other time of year is there so much color in the landscape.  As few trees are purchased in fall color, it’s worthwhile to consider that fall color when choosing or placing a tree. Landscape design requires lots of thought times 4-the four seasons.

Petunias shake off the cold and keep right on blooming.  This plant has been awash in color since the first of June-5 months.  I water much less now, and have really quit looking after them.  You would never know this, to look at them.  It is an entirely different look from the summer, to see them in the foreground of the kousa dogwood in fall color.  If your annuals seem to peter out by labor day, you might want to look into seeing what you could do differently to keep them producing throughout the fall.  

I do love Halloween; Buck and I must have hundreds of kids and families who come by that night.  This variety, curiously named “One Too Many”, I will carve, and set in my pots Halloween night.  The white pumpkins have orange netting that has a decidedly pink cast.  I may set each one up on a circle of all white pumpkins.  Or maybe the traditional orange; making decisions like this is the fun part of gardening.

My Solenia rose begonias are in a very protected spot on my deck-they have been spared with blustery winds and driving rain.  They are an outstanding strain of large flowered begonias.  They have been covered in flowers for months, and only ask that I be careful not to overwater.  They are geniunely in the pink right now.

Limelight hydrangeas put on a spectacular fall display. In varying shades of cream-white, green, pink, and rose pink, they dry readily in this stage.  Kept out of direct light indoors, they keep their color as long as you want to look at them.  One bouquet I particularly fancy I have had almost 4 years now.   

There are lots of plants that endure or thrive in the fall.  The toad lilies are blooming now, as are the anemones and boltonia.  My grasses are beautiful. The boston ivy is beginning to color up.  My Caliente pink geraniums, so highly recommended by Alan Armitage, look as good today as they did every day of the past 5 months.  The trees are turning. The early hours of the day make for skies more likely to be pink than blue.  It is an exciting time of year.